Sometimes, when the curtain goes up on Rochester City Ballet's dancers, Kylee Fassler sneaks into the audience.
RCB's development manager typically is off stage, helping the company in whatever way she can. A stolen moment catching the show is a rare treat.
Fassler's job is to find support for RCB. This involves writing grant applications, soliciting donations, managing the database and running special events. In recent years RCB has reached out to a broader audience with new events and fresh marketing. Fassler is intimately involved in conveying the transformation to supporters.
"We're just very lucky that we have a very generous community," she says. "It's a rough time for the arts. I really want RCB to succeed."
Performing the classics with skill and grace while exploring new territory is the balancing act of many ballet companies. While classics remain staples-"The Nutcracker" with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra will again be part of the coming holiday season, and "Cinderella" is slated for next May-RCB embraces contemporary dance. Artistic Director Jamey Leverett has built a reputation as a choreographer who pushes the boundaries of traditional ballet. Company members are classically trained dancers, but they can shed the tutus and pointe shoes, dance barefoot and pair up differently-all hallmarks of contemporary dance.
Bold programs reflect the shift. Leverett's "The Blood Countess" in 2011 played on vampire mania. "New York Cityscapes" in 2012 was a collaboration with the RPO's pops conductor, Jeff Tyzik. "Who Is Rochester City Ballet?" next May will include the premiere of "InCantation," in which double-bassist James VanDemark will perform on stage with the company.
RCB's well-received In Studio series brings audience members into the rehearsal space, allowing for discussion with artistic staff, dancers and visiting artists. Funkytown, RCB's summer fundraiser last month, brought dancers and donors alike onto the dance floor.
It is Fassler's job to tell the story of RCB's evolution. She says her role is the perfect marriage of an undergraduate degree in English (earned in 2004 at SUNY College at Geneseo along with a dance minor) and her MFA in performance and choreography at SUNY College at Brockport in 2007.
"I knew dance was what I wanted to do, but I didn't know what it would be," she says.
Fassler, 31, was one of the first members of the Good Pointe Society, RCB's young professionals group. These days she is a member of the group's steering committee and staff liaison.
After earning her MFA, Fassler worked for four years as personal assistant to Nancy Sands, then chairwoman of RCB's board of directors. She moved to RCB when the development manager position opened.
The world of dance continues to be about more than fundraising for Fassler. Twice a week she trades the office for the studio to teach 3- and 4-year-olds in a creative movement class in the Timothy M. Draper Center for Dance Education, RCB's professional dance and ballet training school. With her guidance, children take their first steps toward dance.
"The first 10 minutes of my class are turning the music on and letting them be creative," she says.
She also works with older students. Since graduating, Fassler has staged two of her own choreographed pieces with college dance programs. At SUNY College at Fredonia, she auditioned dancers for a jazz number called "Tierney's Suite"-named for jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton, whom Fassler saw perform at the Rochester International Jazz Festival in 2008.
And for the 45th anniversary of SUNY Geneseo's dance program, Fassler worked with students to stage a piece she had choreographed in her junior year. "Falling on Five (Trip Beat)" is set to Dave Brubeck's "Take Five."
"All these years later, it's still my favorite," she says.
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